Skippable in Paris
February 20, 2017 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Paris is, of course, an amazing city, but even such a magnificent destination is home to some overrated attractions. We're already planning to take a pass on the Mona Lisa, but what else do you suggest we skip on our week-long trip in mid-March? Late 30s couple, no kids. Thanks!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (38 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly I would not bother going up the Eiffel Tower. It's cool to walk around underneath, but it's a lot of waiting to get to the top. Go up the Tour Montparnasse instead - less waiting and an incredible view. The funicular up to the Sacre-Coeur is also a great way to see the city from up high with a lot less waiting, street hawkers and bullshit.

Totally not skippable: L'As du Fallafel.
posted by terretu at 1:21 PM on February 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

I was disappointed in the Picasso Museum. I would only bother with it if you get the Paris Museum Pass that allows you to pop in without paying for it separately. (Which you should do, by the way - the Museum Pass easily pays for itself and saves a ton of time.)
posted by something something at 1:30 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely walk around the Eiffel Tower—it's almost fractal in its complexity. Agree about the Picasso Museum.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 1:32 PM on February 20, 2017

At the Louvre, skip the Mona Lisa, sure, but do not skip the Michelangelo Gallery. It has his "Slaves" which I about died when I happened upon it as a young idiot who had no idea where I was in the museum.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:32 PM on February 20, 2017 [9 favorites]

Skip the bateaux mouche -- the long, flat boats that cruise the Seine -- **during the day**. Go at night. It's less crowded, and gorgeous. And you get a front-row seat when the Eiffel Tower's light show happens at the top of each hour.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:40 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, go to the Louvre but skip the idea that you should see ALL THE HIGHLIGHTS. Instead, splash out on a pricey but wonderful guided tour. You'll see highlights + hear stories + grasp the meaning behind what you're seeing. Worth every penny. Plus you get to skip the entrance line, and the guide knows how to expertly navigate the museum so when you do finally see the Mona Lisa you do it in the best possible way.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:42 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely skip going up the Eiffel Tower. Walk around it and walk over to the Trocadero to see the Tower lit up at night. Totally agree with the above poster to go up the Tour Montparnasse. Ugly building but beautiful view, and no crowds.

I skipped the Champs-Elysees and have no regrets. It just seemed way too overpriced and full of stores I can see in any major city.
posted by dayintoday at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agree with not going up the Eiffel Tower. You can go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and get a great 360 view of the city that includes the Eiffel Tower. No lineups if you go early in the day.

The Champs-Élysées is also over-rated IMO. On a grand scale it is impressive and beautiful, and its great to set food on such a historic boulevard. But to spend too much time walking down it's length is not worth it. At the pedestrian scale there are so many chain stores and restaurants that it loses a good bit of its promise of grand elegance.
posted by Kabanos at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

With the L'As du Fallafel mentioned above, I'd say skip the Latin Quarter and spend your walking-around time in Le Marais, the 3rd arrondissement.

And don't spend any money on Rue de Rivoli outside the Louvre.
posted by witchen at 1:48 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would agree on skipping the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, and the Champs Elysees.

I would also skip the bateaux mouches tours. If you actually want to see Paris, you're better served taking a bus, such as the 69 (more on that line), 38, or 87, which go right across big parts of Paris. It's cheaper, you're hanging out with French people, and if you have a bus pass, you can get off and board any time you want. Try not to ride during rush hour, though.

Père Lachaise Cemetery is totally worth the visit. If you know a little French history, it's even better than just Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Molière, and Jim Morrison, as you'll recognize a lot of names.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:52 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Unless you can get there really early to line up, I'd skip the catacombs. They're cool, but it's a legit 2+ hour wait.
posted by Think_Long at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2017

Agree about skipping the Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées as well. My favorite things in Paris that I absolutely would not skip are the Michelangelo Gallery at the Louvre, the Père Lachaise Cemetery and the Catacombs!
posted by Polychrome at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is a hard question to answer for someone else. The city itself is an attraction, so imo, everything in it is skippable, except for the things I really like. Nothing is mandatory. I like art from about 1850-1950, so for me, the Musée d'Orsay is a must and the Centre Pompidou was skippable. I like cemeteries, so I went to Père Lachaise and Montparnasse Cemetery and Picpus Cemetery, but most people wouldn't. I spent 30 minutes in the Louvre and don't regret it. Didn't go to the Picasso Museum or the Musée du Cluny (which was on my sister's must-list). My favorite things were walking around the neighborhoods, finding street fairs, and the bateaux-mouches.
posted by donajo at 2:15 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

You can totally skip walking in Papa's footsteps by stopping at Les Deux Magots. Whew that was some expensive coffee.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do not skip le musée Rodin (specifically the site at l'Hôtel Biron, 79 rue de Varenne). It's not just sculpture. Rodin collected paintings and sketches from his contemporaries and willed them along with his works and copyrights/moral rights to the French state. France bought and renovated l'Hôtel Biron specifically for exhibiting Rodin, and recently completed another renovation in time for the centennial of Rodin's death in 1917. Anselm Kiefer's work will be exhibited from late March to late October. The grounds are lovely and relaxing. There's a decent café onsite. Tickets are €10.

If you want to learn more about the process of large cast sculpture consider going to the other site of the museum, Rodin's Villa des Brillants, outside Paris in Meudon (open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only); otherwise feel free to skip that one.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:49 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've been to Paris multiple times and still haven't set foot in the Louvre. And I don't feel bad at all.

I enjoyed the Musée d'Orsay immensely, and l'Orangerie is very nice too.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:49 PM on February 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

The advice not to go up Eiffel is making me sad. You don't wait in line if you get a tour and you'll learn more than just wandering around. I skip all cemeteries, everywhere. But without knowing what you don't enjoy, this is kind of hard to answer properly.
posted by sageleaf at 2:52 PM on February 20, 2017

I found Montmatre to be fairly disappointing.

The most fun I had in Paris was the day when my friend and I just picked a neighborhood to wander around in (it was in the center-ish) and then we spent the day eating ice cream and other tasty things, looking at chocolate shops and bakeries and the food in food markets and having picnics in the parks.
posted by colfax at 3:00 PM on February 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

Skip the Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre. The basilica is a stone meringue built as reactionary Catholic self-flagellation, the surrounds are tacky and tatty. It's all a bit like Lourdes except in Paris.
posted by holgate at 3:05 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I went to Paris I skip the major art museums. Musée de l'Orangerie is a really powerful art fix. When you see this 6 feet tall and hung 4 feet off the floor you need that bench behind you.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 3:09 PM on February 20, 2017

I personally wouldn't skip the Mona Lisa, it's surprisingly gripping in real life, and very clear why it was his masterpiece.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:22 PM on February 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

It depends if this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip or if you are likely to go again. If you think you might go back, skip just about all the tourist attractions. Spend your time walking around without too much of a goal. Go to the markets, have picnics, stop in every single cafe that appeals to you, and just watch Parisian life go by. Pick a different area to do this in every day.

For example, I had way more fun on the trip where I went out to Versailles and had a picnic and played frisbee with friends in the garden than the time I went there and did a guided tour. Memories and photos of a frisbee game with Versailles in the background are much cooler than memories and photos that could just as well have come from watching a documentary on TV.

If you are never going to go back again, you should probably do the Eiffel tower tour, definitely do the catacombs, and at least take a brief look in the Louvre and Notre Dame.
posted by lollusc at 4:08 PM on February 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

In the same spirit as BlahLaLa's suggestion, skip Notre Dame during general visiting hours, but go for a nighttime concert instead (unless you hate all the music on offer!). The cathedral is so much better in the hushed darkness than in a crowd of chatty tourists.
posted by aws17576 at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Musee de l'Orangerie is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. And I just went in on a whim. Do NOT miss it.
posted by raisingsand at 7:09 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's good to hear recommendations to skip MoMar. I wouldn't consider staying anywhere else. ;-)
posted by humboldt32 at 7:24 PM on February 20, 2017

Don't skip the Louvre, but do go on Wednesday or Friday when they are open until 9:45pm.

Even during peak summer season, we had the Mona Lisa pretty much to ourselves on a Friday evening.

Get the city pass so that you don't spend time waiting in line.

I would skip going inside the Notre Dame if there are crazy long lines.
posted by metaseeker at 7:25 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

If it's a straight choice between a queue at Notre Dame during the day, and getting to see the Sainte-Chapelle, then skip Notre Dame. Berthillon will have a queue, but don't skip it.

Definitely give yourself a day of "not doing things", as suggested upthread: pick a neighbourhood and wander. Picnic at the Jardin de Luxembourg, or locals' café in the 5e, or meander around the Marais.
posted by holgate at 8:37 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I would skip the Louvre entirely and focus on the smaller museums, but then I'm not a big Louvre fan.

One thing I can wholeheartedly recommend is a guided tour of Versailles with someone from Sandeman's. I did this when I was there and it was worth about double what I paid. So much fun and my tour guide, Alex, was a riot.
posted by Tamanna at 8:40 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you have the museum pass, you can saunter into the Louvre (ideally the moment it opens, before the tour groups arrive) and saunter out, and not feel like you've wasted your money or obliged to nod at gallery after gallery of marzipan.
posted by holgate at 9:08 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Coming back to say that I wholeheartedly second holgate's suggestion of not doing "things." I spent a week in Paris over Christmas, and granted, I'd already done some of the touristy things, but some of the best days I had were simply just grabbing my camera and guidebook (this was in the days before smartphones) and walking. Paris is such a gorgeous city you really don't have to do anything touristy to enjoy it.

Also, I cannot recommend À L'Etoile d'Or enough - not only is it bar none THE best chocolate shop in Paris, Denise Acabo is just plain wonderful and a Parisian treasure all on her own. I will never forget how kind and welcoming she was to a little girl with not much money to spend - she made me feel like I was the most important person in the world at that moment and honestly, that was even better than the chocolate she sold me (which was pretty damn impressive to begin with.)
posted by Tamanna at 9:49 PM on February 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

To be honest, if I were advising someone who had never been to Paris, I would tell them to pick 4-5 things they were genuinely interested in, do one of those things each day, and then spend the rest of the time just wandering around.

But if pressed, I'd say I was fairly disappointed in both the Latin Quarter and Montmartre. Both were full of touristy honky-tonk. Echoing the earlier recommendation of La Marais - I stayed there and it was the Paris of my imagination.
posted by lunasol at 9:53 PM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm sentimental about the lower bit of the 5e, because I stayed on Rue Monge when I first visited Paris 25 years ago, and knew lots of nothing but sort of knew how to wander, and ended up stumbling into the Arènes de Lutèce off a side-street. It's definitely less gussied-up and more lived-in than the skippable "Latin Quarter" stuff on Boul St G. In a city as dense as Paris, there are lived-in bits in every arrondissement, and you should seek them out: wherever you're staying, ask the people who live there where they spend their time.
posted by holgate at 10:19 PM on February 20, 2017

Look at it this way: with only one week in Paris, you're bound to skip most of it anyway. And like donajo said upthread, everything is skippable.

One thing you don't want to skip though, especially if you like indigenous art, is the Musée du Quai Branly.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:24 PM on February 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing it's fine to skip Mona Lisa, but visiting the Louvre is still among my favorite things in life and I live in Paris. It's just mind-blowing. Totally worth getting the museum pass – you'll save loads of time queuing.

I'm kind of sad people are brushing off Montmartre, especially the remarks about the neighborhood. I get that it's filled with tacky tourist stuff, but it's also part of Paris. If you want to get a feel for what non-rich Parisians are like, Montmartre is where it's at. Also, the church itself is totally not worth going inside BUT there is a gorgeous view of Paris at your feet from up top. Then walk over to Place du Tertre and you will see yet another Paris inside Paris. Very different from the shops at the bottom of the hill!

The Champs-Elysées are skippable but the Arc de Triomphe is worth seeing, as are the Champs from its vantage point. Only takes a few minutes. You can walk to Eiffel from there and pass by the replica of the Statue of Liberty's torch (she was built by Eiffel, as was the torch in Paris).

I totally loved going up the Eiffel Tower. The experience in and of itself – being IN the Eiffel Tower – and the views aren't the same as from Montparnasse, but then again I'm a huge history and architecture buff. So much depends on what you in particular enjoy.
posted by fraula at 4:48 AM on February 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

The last time I was in Paris (back when no one had to take their shoes off to fly), I stayed in le Marais. I even did a day off like people suggested and just set off in the morning to wander the banlieues. Wouldn't you know it, le Marais was so interesting and livable that I stayed there the whole day. Lunch was the national sandwich's wife, dinner was some kickass Indian food, late night drinks and dining included a steak with Gorgonzola sauce.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:56 AM on February 21, 2017

If it's the kind of think you care about, and have some background, the Mona Lisa and the room its in do a great job of illustrating why it's such an important painting. Up to then, everything was religious and political propaganda. Da Vinci went and painted a single, non-epic portrait of a relatively non-powerful person and all of a sudden everyone was like, "Wait, you mean we don't HAVE to paint Jesus over and over??!?!" And you get this explosion of what we think of now as relatively modern subject matter. Also, for real, it's a really good painting. Just like you can't understand Rothko from a book, you can't understand Da Vinci.

If I had my way, I'd take a whole week to digest the Louvre.

Of course if you don't care about that, then you don't care, but I don't understand how one can care about Paris but not the greatest historical collection of art in the world.
posted by cmoj at 8:26 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Skip the I.M. Pei pyramid entrance to the Louvre, and enter instead from below at the Carrousel du Louvre.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:01 AM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

As Maurice Chevalier famously croaked: "Paris eez lahk any oser city, only zere...people eat better!" So, I know I am not answering your question directly, but *do not* skip the food. The best french fries in the world are served at Brasserie Balzar (they call them "pommes frites" and they will bring them with a bottle of ketchup if you look American enough...just wave off the ketchup and tell them "C'est pas necessaire."/"Say Pa Ness-uh-sayre" lest you commit a condiment party foul.) I would also recommend dinner at Chez Georges. Get the tarte tatin for dessert if they still have it. I ate both these dishes over 20 years ago, and they still make me smile each time I think of them.
posted by Mr. Fig at 1:25 PM on February 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

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